HC Deb 22 June 1981 vol 7 cc8-9
9. Mr. Winnick

asked the Secretary of State for Industry what assessment he has made for the revival of industry in the West Midlands region.

Mr. MacGregor

I recognise that the West Midlands has been particularly affected by the current world recession, not least because of its dependence on certain industries which have been becoming increasingly less competitive in world markets over recent years. The Government's policies are designed to help create the conditions for an economic revival, in which much will depend on the efforts of management and work forces in the region to restore the competitiveness and productivity of its industry.

Mr. Winnick

Is the Minister aware of the scale of devastation which has hit the West Midlands in the last two years and which is largely due directly to Government policies? Is he aware also that people in the West Midlands, subject constantly to economic insecurity, redundancies, closures and short-time working, are waiting desperately for the Government's promises of economic revival to be turned into hard reality?

Mr. MacGregor

As I said, it has been due not to Government policies but to the increasingly uncompetitive nature of many West Midlands industries. I hope that the hon. Member will welcome, in terms of competitiveness, the fact that our inflation rate is getting closer to the EEC average, which is a big change from recent years, that our interest rates are below the EEC average, that wage increases are moderating and that the potential for increased productivity is now very marked for when the upturn comes. I recognise the problems of Walsall, but I hope that the hon. Gentleman will concentrate on the new jobs that are being created. I understand that more than 2,500 people a month in the Walsall travel-to-work area are now coming off the jobs register. Last month, it was nearly 3,000

Mr. Stokes

Does my- hon. Friend agree that industry in the West Midlands, as elsewhere in the country, will revive as the slump ends? But could he assist this by reforming much of the tangle of employment legislation which hinders employers, especially small employers, and also, for instance, by abolishing the wages councils?

Mr. MacGregor

My hon. Friend is right to say that there are encouraging signs of increasing competitiveness which will stand firms in good stead as the economic recovery comes. The other matters referred to by my hon. Friend are of course for my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Employment.